eVoice: Like Google Voice, with more for business

I got off to a bad start with eVoice. After I wrote my hands-on review of the Google Voice mobile Web app, I got an e-mail from representatives of j2 Global Communications asking me to take a look at a competing product, which was (a) Just like Google Voice, but (b) Older.

So what? I said. Nobody cares how old the service is. Google isn't exactly some young fly-by-night startup.

Then, the j2 rep spoke the magic words: Tech support.

"You offer actual tech support?" I thought. "Why didn't you say so in the first place?"

j2's eVoice service is targeted toward small businesses, who don't have the time to muck through blogs and forums and fill out online forms looking for answers if something breaks. They want to be able to call the vendor and get problems straightened out.

The service has been around since 2004, j2 is announcing price reductions today to make it affordable for small business.

Other than the availability of tech support -- which is a big "other than" -- eVoice is quite similar to Google Voice, with a couple of nifty distinctions that make it useful for small businesses.

Like Google Voice, you can give out your eVoice number to business associates, and then configure eVoice to ring multiple phones whenever someone dials that number. Like Google Voice, eVoice will take voicemail, and transcribe that voicemail automatically before you listen to it. eVoice claims its transcription is much better than Google Voice. I'm skeptical, but I haven't tested it out.

Another differentiator with Google Voice: eVoice lets you have multiple incoming phone numbers associated with the same eVoice account, or multiple extensions of the same number. So Alice from Accounting, Mike from Marketing, and Tania from Tech Support can have separate phone numbers, but share the same eVoice account.

eVoice also lets users set up phone trees, and offers professional voice actors to record your outgoing voice message.

Unlike Google Voice, eVoice is a pay service, priced at $12.95 for up to two users and 300 minutes per month, and $29.95 for five users and 1,000 minutes per month. After that, users can pay $10 per month for each additional user and 100 minutes per month.

You may recognize the name j2 Global Communications, they make the eFax Internet faxing service, which, they assure me, is still very popular. I'm always surprised to see that people are still faxing. It's like finding people who still use manual typewriters, or who knap arrowheads and axes from flint.

I'm sticking with Google Voice, but looking hungrily at some of the features of eVoice. If you're looking for a Google Voice-like service for business, eVoice may be right for you.

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